How to Reduce Chronic Inflammation by Reducing Sugar

You have probably already learned that excess sugar can cause a host of health issues but did you know that it can also impact our musculoskeletal health? Excess sugar intake is one of the leading contributors to inflammation and chronic pain. If you suffer from frequent aches, you may benefit from cutting back on the sweet white stuff. Plan a visit to your local chiropractors’ office.

Inflammation Isn’t All Bad

This may sound counterintuitive to the topic at hand, but before diving into the how-to’s, it is important to know that inflammation is not always bad. Our bodies use inflammation as a defense mechanism to promote healing, like when you have a cut or even a serious injury. Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response administered to heal the wounded site of infection or injury.

But Inflammation Can be Bad

The problem arises when we consume too much sugar in our diets, which leads to too much inflammation. When you regularly consume processed foods like white bread, soda, juice, cookies, chips, crackers, doughnuts, ice cream, cake and other simple carbs, long-term inflammation can occur in the body. Long-term inflammation serves no useful function and can actually cause harm to your health. Chronic inflammation is linked to chronic pain and serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and cancer. Sugar also contributes to chemicals that are known to kick-start inflammation within the body, known as pro-inflammatory cytokines.

Too much of a good thing can be bad. Consuming too much sugar causes the production of excess amounts of advanced glycation end products (AGEs), which are a normal part of the metabolism. Yet when excessive glucose is consumed, a surplus of AGEs comes about. When this occurs, these AGEs bind with cells and integral proteins and interfere with their functions while changing their structure. This process can lead to oxidative stress and inflammation, which can eventually lead to a plaque buildup on our arteries, which we all know is bad for our health.

Tips for Cutting Back on Sugar

Chronic inflammation often occurs as a result of lifestyle and diet. You can take some steps to reduce inflammation’s negative effects on your body by reducing the amount of added sugar and refined carbohydrates you consume.

Read labels and note which foods you eat that contain added sugars.

You may be surprised at how many foods sugar is added to and how many names it hides behind. Sugar is not only in sweet treats you would expect but also breads, crackers, dips and even some cheeses! Read labels and watch for sneaky names like:

  • Brown rice syrup
  • Honey
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Date sugar
  • Beet sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Molasses
  • Sugar alcohols such as erythritol and xylitol (or just about anything ending in “–itol”)

Wean yourself from sweet drinks. Beverages that have sugar added to them are one of the quickest and easiest ways to consume mass amounts of sugar. Soda is merely carbonated sugar water. One 12 ounce can of cola contains over 39 grams of sugar, which is more than the recommended daily intake of sugar. Also pass on the diet sodas as artificial sweeteners have been proven to be bad for you as well as exacerbate sugar cravings. Fruit juices are also often laden with added sweeteners for flavor enhancement. If you crave a little flavor, opt for unsweetened yet flavored sparkling water or antioxidant rich green tea.

Cut back on sweet treats. The added sugars and processed flours found in desserts like candy, cakes, pies and cookies elevate insulin levels rapidly, promoting inflammation in the body. Opt instead for fruit smoothies or use natural substitutes sparingly if you want something sweet, like a teaspoon of honey in plain yogurt with fruit.

Begin to remove other foods from your diet that contain added sugar. From oatmeal and flavored yogurts to even regular varieties of almond milk, sugar is in more than you may believe. You can get unsweetened versions of many of these items – just remember to read your labels.

Watch out for sauces. Many sauces like ketchup, teriyaki, hoisin and barbecue may make your dishes taste extravagant but they also are full of sugars. Opt instead for anti-inflammatory herbs to season your dishes like rosemary, cilantro, ginger, parsley and turmeric. If you can’t get past your need for ketchup, opt for tomato paste!

It may be hard at first to eliminate added sugars from your diet. Know that the elimination process will get better and your aches and pains may too! And eventually foods that you once thought were not sweet enough will become overly sweet to your palate.